By Dan Gilgoff and Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editors
(CNN) – As he waited with parents who feared that their kids were among the 20 children killed at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday, Rabbi Shaul Praver said the main thing he could do for parents was to merely be present.
“It’s a terrible thing, families waiting to find out if their children made it out alive,” said Praver, who leads a synagogue in Newtown, Connecticut, and was among nine clergy gathered with parents at a firehouse near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where the shooting occurred.
“They’re going to need a lot of help,” Praver said of those who are close to the dead.
From the first moments after Friday’s massacre, which also left six adults and the shooter dead, religious leaders were among the first people to whom worried and grieving families turned for help.
Over the weekend, countless more Americans will look to clergy as they struggle to process a tragedy in which so many of the victims were children.
“Every single person who is watching the news today is asking ‘Where is God when this happens?’” says Max Lucado, a prominent Christian pastor and author based in San Antonio.
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Lucado says that pastors everywhere will be scrapping their scheduled Sunday sermons to address the massacre.
“You have to address it - you have to turn everything you had planned upside down on Friday because that’s where people’s hearts are,” Lucado says.
“The challenge here is to avoid the extremes – those who say there are easy answers and those who say there are no answers.”
Indeed, many religious leaders on Friday stressed that the important thing is for clergy to support those who are suffering, not to rush into theological questions. A University of Connecticut professor on Friday hung up the phone when asked to discuss religious responses to suffering, saying, “This is an immense tragedy, and you want an academic speculating on the problem of evil?”
“There is no good answer at that time that anyone can hear and comprehend and take in,” said Ian T. Douglas, the bishop for the Episcopal diocese of Connecticut, referring to counseling family and friends of the dead. “They’re crying out from a place of deep pain.”
Praver, the rabbi, will join a memorial service Friday night at Newtown’s St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church.
“We’re going to have a moment of prayer for the victims,” Praver said of the service. “We cannot let it crush our spirit and we march on.”
Some national religious groups are also sending staff to Newtown, with 10 chaplains dispatched from the North Carolina-based Billy Graham Evangelistic Association on Friday.
Public officials including President Obama, meanwhile, turned to the Bible in responding to the shooting. “In the words of Scripture, 'heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds,' ” Obama said from the White House, citing the book of Psalms.
On Twitter, #PrayForNewton became a trending topic.
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Some religious leaders argue that modern American life insulates much of the nation from the kind of senseless death and suffering that plagues much of the world every day.
“Most of the world, for most of the world’s history, has known tragedy and trauma in abundance,” wrote Rob Brendle, a Colorado pastor, in a commentary for CNN’s Belief Blog after this summer’s deadly shooting in Aurora, Colorado, which left 12 dead.
“You don’t get nearly the same consternation in Burundi or Burma, because suffering is normal to there,” wrote Brendle, who pastored congregants after a deadly shooting at his church five years ago. “For us, though, God has become anesthetist-in-chief. To believe in him is to be excused from bad things.”
My Take: This is where God was in Aurora
Lucado said there was an eerie irony for the Connecticut tragedy coming just before Christmas, noting the Bible says that Jesus Christ’s birth was followed by an order from King Herod to slay boys under 2 in the Roman city of Bethlehem.
“The Christmas story is that Jesus was born into a dark and impoverished world,” Lucado says. “His survival was surrounded by violence. The real Christmas story was pretty rough.”
Many religious leaders framed Friday’s shooting as evidence for evil in the world and for human free will in the face of a sovereign God.
“The Bible tells us the human heart is ‘wicked’ and ‘who can know it?’” the Rev. Franklin Graham said in a statement about the massacre. “My heart aches for the victims, their families and the entire community.”
Many religious leaders also said that such tragedies are a good time for lay people to express doubts about God – or anger.
“This is a time to go deep and pray,” says Lucado. “If you have a problem with God, shake a fist or two at him. If he’s God, he’s going to answer. And if he’s in control, he’ll find a way to let you know.
It is time for us to open our eyes to see JESUS, and ask HIM : " What do You want me to see GOD?".
Ask GOD of peace and comfort to give all of us peace and comfort, and strenght to be strong during our journey.
Time is getting shorter and shorter, please be aware of the HOLY BIBLE and JESUS HIMSELF.
The BIBLE and JESUS are alive and real http://www.saywilkinsministry.com
Wait, what? Isn't that what you goof balls do all the time? How is that working out for you?
Why would anyone worship a deity who didn't even bother to leave behind any writings?
The bible is alive? And jeebus too? Wow, I'm shaking in my boots.
This is not a time to argue, for the lifes lost their struggle is over , for those left behind their struggle has just started ...... lets pray for them
no, they are not Princess. no matter how much you want to close your eyes and wish really hard, it is not happening. repeat all the incantations you wish, you are just embarassing yourself.
They CRUCIFIED!!! HIM,,,,THEY CRUCIFIED HIM ,,,,,,THEY CRUCIFIED HIM,,,,remember remember...
Oh yeah saw that in that movies :-)
God is in our DNA or inside all of us. He can only be as powerful as the individual or our collective faith. I'm agnostic, but I know for sure that it would be bad for all of us if we're all atheist. Sort of we're half ruined by religion, but will be wholly ruined without it.
Why? I completely disagree. We would be profoundly improved if we were all atheists.
I wonder if you're also an atheist. You see, an atheist does not believe, whereas an agnostic does not claim to know. I, for example, am both agnostic and atheist, and I don't think that god belief has very much to do with the amount of "evil" or "good" in any society.
Which god do you refer to? Yahweh? Jesus? Allah? Zeus? Does your god have a name?
I oddly, weirdly and slightly agree. What would these brainwashed people be doing if not for their gods killing their time? Probably lot more innocent people killed.
Many ask where is GOD ? they took HIM out of school .......... now ask where? My heart and prayers go out to the families of this horrific crime
So God decided to kill 20 kids that had nothing to do with that decision? How many more times are you going to post this? They took out mandatory prayer; one could still pray privately.
And change you freaking tune. It's getting tiresome.
If your deity is "everywhere" how could he/she be taken out of a building?
Tj: wow, that sure is a loving god you got there
Do you think GOD did this ?
Yes, I believe god did this. I believe people such as yourself whom allow their brains to be washed by power brokers from past generations leaves the door open for people like Adam to go off and kill 20 innocent kids. Yes I believe bc of people like you creating false senses of eternal bliss I believe your god was responsible. If the world could accept the truth maybe people would not be so apt to kill. I am angry that you and your groups created this false sense. I do blame your god for this.
Good things happen in life and so do bad things. There are always reasons. Only if we can be honest in understanding the real reasons and understanding the natural world, we can equip ourselves on how to deal with them and create a better society. Or we can just choose to be delusional and delegate that responsibility to made up archaic beliefs.
However, it is a very relevant question for believers. If god cannot protect the innocent then does he really exists! or worth praying to.
Prayer and god was taken out of the schools the atheists and their lawyers did it even though according to google 90% of the people in this country are christians . The miniority and a few lawyers say no prayer in schools also thhere was a study done by a pschycoligist findings all the people who have done these things to date are atheists them and their parents never took the kids to church.
Prayers isn't forbidden in school, any kid can pray all they want.
Can I still go to the school carnival if I am dead?
ted doesn't seem to understand about how separation of church and state came about.
Listen to James Madison, POTUS #4, and the chief architect of the U.S. Constitution:
During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.
(A Remonstrance . . to the Virginia General Assembly in 1785.)
Listen to John Adams, POTUS #2:
I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved – the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced! With the rational respect that is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill or might fill the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history. "
(in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, 09/03/1816)
The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.
(from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America [1787-1788])
Listen to Ben Franklin:
Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of the sermons which had been preached at Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them. For the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to be much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.
(from his Autobiography)
Thomas Paine was very Deistic. He witness Quakers being hung in Massachusetts by other Christians:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
Thomas Jefferson had his own Deistic version of the Bible.
Millions of innocent men, women, and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.
(from Notes on the State of Virginia)
Of course Deism holds to the belief of God as the creator of the universe. But many Deists also believed that God did not interfere with the lives of his creation. And many Deists disbelieved in all of the "magic" in the Bible – some of them refuting the Bible and Christianity completely.
Jefferson, Washington, Adams, Paine, Mason & Madison all witnessed the violent persecution between Christian sects in their home states around the time the government was being established. So it is of no surprise that they needed a secular government and they knew the only way to enforce freedom of religion was to keep religion out of the government as much as possible.
Listen to James Madison speak about the need for the need to keep religion out of government (Jefferson wasn't the only one to explicitly speak of the separation of church and state):
Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.
The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.
(from letters to Edward Livingston and Robert Walsh)
Madison as president vetoed two bills that he believed would violate the separation of church and state. He also came to oppose the long-established practice of employing chaplains at public expense in the House of Representatives and Senate on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state and the principles of religious freedom. (Library of Congress – James Madison Papers – Detached memorandum, ca. 1823.)
President John Adams and the U.S. Senate on behalf of the U.S.
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;
(from Article 11 of the U.S. treaty ratified with Tripoli in 1797)
Senator John F Kennedy said on Sept. 12, 1960, just prior to his winning the Presidential election:
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.
And I think it's more like 87% ted – if you check the stats on today's classrooms.
Ted is not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
………………………………Pew-07 … Pew-12 … PRRI-12
Evangelical Protestant ………. 26.3% … 19% … 19.9%
Mainline Protestant ………...… 18.1% … 15% … 14.9%
Historically black Protestant …. 6.9% …. 08% … 08%
Catholic …………………….… 23.9% …. 22% … 22%
Mormon ……………………...… 1.7% …. 02% … n/a
Atheist ……………………….… 1.6% … 2.3% … 6.7% (with Agnostic)
Agnostic ……………………….. 2.4% … 3.4% … n/a
Secular unaffiliated ……………. 6.3% … n/a … 7.3%
Religious unaffiliated …………... 5.8% … n/a … 4.3%
"thhere was a study done by a pschycoligist findings all the people who have done these things to date are atheists them and their parents never took the kids to church."
organized prayer does not belong in public schools
There are some groups missing in the numbers above – like Orthodox, etc, but it's not close to 87%. Somewhere in the 70-78% is more accurate.
Pew in 2007 was 78.4% Christian. It's gone down since then.
Where could we find said study?
Wow. Thanks for getting those numbers not a GOPer. I should have known I was off – I think I read it expressed the other way around, that ~23% of school kids were not Christian.
Blah blah blah. The guy was CRAZY. It was a random, horrible act of insanity. Why do we have to drag God into it? Whether he exists or not is not the question here. The question is WHY did this happen and HOW can we stop it from ever happening again? Let's turn the argument over to the humans here.
Hey Teach, this is the belief blog, that is why.
you cant stop it humans are flawed and this will go on long after we are gone welcome to an imperfect world
Tj, do you know what punctuation is? I didn't think so.
Where is God? Grieving for his people......... Too bad we only speak of him at times like these...... we don't want him in our schools or public places; we have values that are self-serving; we are affluent beyond anything that has gone before; we are materialistic; we don't want to acknowledge our loving Father.... then we would have to have a relationship with him. So, where is God? Right here.
Does it make you feel better to believe that bullshit, Susan?
susan.....organized prayer does not belong in public schools. and, you paint god as a vindictive petty pr!ck. is that why he appeals to you?
We need to incorporate God back into school and daily living. The 10-Commandments teach Do Not Kill, Do Not Steal, Honor Thy Father and Mother, etc.; morals clearly missing today. Even if you don't "believe", the commandments only improve society. Go back to God and live by His rules... I don't believe He wants us to suffer and it's not His fault we don't listen. For the love of your children, bring Him into your lives.
I was good. Why did God get mad? Will I still get presents?
no, you need to teach your kids about god at home, or in your church. this is not the business of the public school system
Why push 'God' into this? She/He/It had nothing to do with this, though He/It/She created humans, and their evilness. It/He/She is what we want to, or do, believe4 in. The world would be a much better place if 'God' wasn't the end game.
At least it's not 'race', this time around. Both are VERY overrated.
Just my opinion.
Christians worship a demented deity, if their god had the power to stop this shooting, but didn't.
Our maker gave us free will; he does not force us to follow his directives. If he forced his will on us we would be puppets; not sentient beings who can choose to love his ways or not...........
If your imaginary deity existed and was all-powerful, couldn't your deities of Yahweh and Jesus simply cause the gun to jam or his car not to start?
Seems pretty simple.
The big flaw with deity-given free will is this: if a deity wanted puppets and in all honesty it seems like that's all any deity ever wants, puppets to worship it, it does not need to instill free will. If we were born without free will, how would we know we had been born without it? If a deity only desires worship, it would simply make worshippers and be done with it. Why go through all the fuss of making some peope doubt, unless it needs the doubters to die in order to keep the sheep docile? But then, why would an all powerful deity need to murder anyone when it could just simply recreate the product?
susan: free will is incompatible with the concept of an omniscient god.
People are wondering, "Where God Is At?".............he is exactly where the American people have put him....OUT OF SCHOOLS............. Prayer is banned. Merry Christmas is Happy Holidays. So the only people to blame are Americans.
Prayer is not forbidden, kids can pray all they want in school.
No one who's been in school long enough to get a diploma says "Where is God at?"
So your god allowed this to happen because we dont chant his name in public schools, what a petty asshat.
Dee, how old are you? Isn't it your bedtime?
Dee: Prayer is not banned in school. Do you think that lying furthers your point? If so, of what value IS that point? You are sure having a hissy fit
“Every single person who is watching the news today is asking ‘Where is God when this happens?’” Yeah because every person in this country believes in gods.
Should??? Be asking what kinds of Religion this Guy was taught and how many like him?
God is still here. You could see the atrocity the man could do without God, how much more the world without Him?
When tragedy strikes blame God. But you don't have the spine to blame the real culprit "humans". According to atheists we evolved from the monkeys, so blame the monkey. After all God according to you is a myth, can't blame a myth !!! Right !
guest...atheists do not claim we came from monkeys. is your level of understanding that low?
There is No God, if God exists why did he create Satan?
'Where’s God?' He is on His throne and in control as He always was, is, and will be. I too have experienced loss just like the loved ones of today's victims have. I remember searching for an answer to my question of "Why?". As time carried on, I realized the only thing that carried me through that valley of sorrow was God...not mankind from whose hearts flow evil and wickedness. I also came to understand Job's experience. Hope indeed is in the Heavenly Father and His Son! I pray that the loved ones of the victims turn to that blessed Hope and be comforted in knowing that He is there waiting for them with open arms and a tender heart...something that is not always there from our fellow man.
We do these things to each other....GOD allows it...it is a powerful gift called "Free-Will"...GOD is not Superman rushing to catch the runaway baby-carriage before it's hit by the speeding car...(actually I think sometimes he does'or maybe angels do)...we should take care of each other and grow together as children of GOD until HIS return. It is very sad what happened today,...and EVERY day,if you consider all the evil around the world that we do ....to each other.
"Free-Will"...think about it...VERY powerfull gift we have.
God has that same free will to stop these atrocities, since he is the same one that created evil in the first place.
forgiven: the concepts of free will and an omniscient god are incompatible
When I was in school we said the pledge of allegiance and sang God bless America daily. Where is God nowadays in our schools? Like someone else said, "We kicked God out of our schools"!
I think they replaced it with a better idea – "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson.
More bullsh!t from the king of the genre. Children in public schools still recite the pledge and they learn the National Anthem as well.
When was the last time you set foot in a school, you jack ass?
Tom Tom is correct.
They still say the Pledge and still sing the National Anthem...your point is moot, and would STILL not warrant God punishing 20 innocent children.
To Christians arguing for forced prayer: Why are you saying 1) that God has abandoned us / killed those kids, 2) because our government doesn't force kids to pray according to the rules of its religion?
Would you elevate our government to the role of God, to our ancient Israel? Would you make them our new collective high priesthood in place of Jesus? I'm sorry, but our government does not make the grade. I certainly can't follow them in matters of conscience, and I would hope that you can't either.
Didn't God design the family and give us the bible to teach kids how to pray? Islam already has a government-force plan in place. Is that really the direction you want to go? Do you truly believe that you can earn God's favor by forcing some other person, whether child or adult, to bend the knee before "your" God? If so, is that the "grace" by which you claim to be saved? When did Jesus ever do this? According to Jeremiah 31:3, Isaiah 1:18 and 1 Corinthians 1:21, how does God draw people? Force? Tyranny? Brainwashing?
If you want atheists to believe in God, present a God that is believable. You say "God is a tyrant" from one side of your mouth, because that is what you really believe, and "God is love" out the other side, because you know there's a verse that says it, so it's "the right answer". You re-label tyranny as christian love, and are astonished that not everyone buys it.
God isn't the murderer here. He didn't murder them because the government didn't force them to pray, or because there's gays in the military, or any other reason. In fact, God feels the pain of this much more strongly than you do. I read about those kids, and it tugs at my heart, but I don't know them. God knows them. To God, nobody is distant. He made those kids, individually, with purpose in His mind. They are His in a much more intimate sense than your own children are yours.
Then along comes some selfish human who shoots them so that he will feel better about his problems. Have you ever taken your issues out on someone else? Done something selfish that made you feel better? I have. Am I better than this shooter because he took a few steps further along that path than I did? I'm not, and neither are you. Ultimately there is a known cause, of course. Though we have all gone down this path willingly, even eagerly, it was Satan who lead us. So recognizing that, what are we going to do about it?
How about this: Instead of yelling at God for killing those kids, we accept some responsibility. How about if we as individuals humble ourselves before the God we claim to serve? How about we as individuals stop making ourselves available to Satan for his personal use? What if we became intentionally and individually available to God on a daily basis instead? What if we became the "living sacrifices" of Romans 12:1 instead?
God is holy, righteous, and just...AND HE DOES NOT CHANGE! He is the Father and we the children. As an earthly son should give his earthly father due respect and follow his wise counsel, the son should do the same for his Heavenly Father.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
6 In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
11 My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor detest His correction;
12 For whom the LORD loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
john: try not to pop a gasket.
god does not change?
i suppose that it true for a lot of non existent things
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.